This year I didn’t spend Easter putting on my pinchy white church shoes or eating too many Cadbury eggs; I spent it walking around here:
Every Easter in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, people decorate the streets with colored sawdust in the wee hours of the morning, and the streets stay like that for approximately three hours until the Easter procession complete with Moses, angels, and a band tramples over it.
Five of us from the same program met up in Belo Horizonte before heading to Ouro Preto for Easter. Native languages spoken: English, Spanish. Lingua francas spoken: Portuguese. The weekend was a jumble of languages and people sleeping in far too close of quarters, and it was great. I never knew three full-grown women could sleep on a single air mattress. I need to remember while I’m here not to take for granted the opportunity I get to be surrounded by friends who find traveling more normal than not, and knowledge of more than one language a given.
Ouro Preto is my favorite place in Brazil so far. It has such a different feel from the rest of the Brazil that I know: it felt safer, more antiquated, had a different kind of beauty. There weren’t metal gates topped with barbed wire around all the buildings. I sat on the curb at night and thought nothing of it. I spoke in English and no one looked at me. Dark beer was plentiful. The architecture was different: more European, which is to be expected, given Ouro Preto’s colonial history. It was secluded in mountains covered in palm trees and perpetual mist. It was like the jungle and Portugal had a baby and named it Ouro Preto, and it was unique and refreshing.
I talked with a friend there about our being in Brazil starting with a feeling that we followed. It was hard for me to put into rational terms when I was applying for this scholarship why I want to be here. Yeah, I love Portuguese; yeah, I know cool Brazilians. World Cup, Olympics, BRICK country, blah blah. But all that time there was just this feeling that I suddenly had a few Julys ago that I had to go to Brazil. It never waned, and I spent my two years of grad school doing everything I could to get closer to that goal. It was what got me through syntax class, my less-than-inspiring job, and every other obstacle, big or small, that I faced. It was what I felt I was meant to do next in life. I still don’t quite know why it is that I’m here, but even though it hasn’t all been a cake walk, it still feels right, and I’m still looking.